On my short drive home from campus today (I almost never drive, but it was raining and I'm exhausted), I heard a report on American Public Radio's show Marketplace about saving money and bartering will slow economic recovery because, as it was explained, if you have your friend cut your hair instead of going to a salon, and if you cook dinner for your friend in exchange, instead of your friend going out to a restaurant, you reduce economic activity, because you reduce the demand for goods and services.
Wrongo! Bartering is economic activity! The Missourian they discussed on the program had a demand for a service, and produced a good in exchange. In fact, I had a friend cut my hair in exchange for a dinner once in graduate school, and we constantly bartered to one another our goods and services - growing food, brewing beer, moving, pet care, child care, even construction, plumbing, electrical work, mechanics. None of us had any cash, because we were impoverished grad students. We had no lack of demand for goods and services, and we engaged in a great deal of economic, productive activity to meet our own and one another's needs. I spent several summers during grad school "unemployed," but without collecting unemployment or welfare. I didn't try to set a dollar value on the amount of my productivity and how much I "earned" in that way, but I do know I rarely needed to buy vegetables, for instance.
What they mean to say, properly put, is that the more we produce for ourselves rather than consume from another source, and the more we exchange with one another rather than purchase, the less monetary activity there is. Money is not equal to economy.
Amazing how easily these ideological words and ideas about economy are rolled out in our culture, and how easily we forget, or neglect that the basis for economy is production and exchange, not just money or share prices.